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Copyright, 1876, by J. B. Ford & Company.
Copyright, 1903, by The University Society,
TAYLOR AND FILLMORE'ADMINISTRATION.
Discussion on Slavery.--Wilmot Proviso.—Tho Powers of the Constitution ;
their Application in the Territories.--Thirty-first Congress.-President's
GENERAL Zachary Taylor was a native of Virginia ; but CHAP when he was very young, bis father removed to Kentucky, and on the frontiers of that State he spent his youth as a 1849. farmer. At the age of twenty-four he received a commission in the army from President Jefferson, and en- 1808. tered upon a career more congenial to his tastes than cultivating the soil. For forty years he was in the military service of his country ; his sphere of duty was on the frontiers ; and thus situated he had never even voted at an election. Honest and frank, blest with common sense and firmness of purpose, he was withal unselfish and patriotic, and uncontaminated with political intrigues. His inaugural address on taking the office of President, was brief, and confined to a declaration of general principles. His cabinet, at the head of which was John M. Clayton of Delaware, was at once confirmed by the Senate.
CHAP. The question of slavery had appeared under different LV.
phases. For twelve years after the passage of the Mis1820. souri Compromise, the subject had not been agitated in
Congress, but now attention was drawn to it by the presentation of memorials, praying that body to abolish the slave-trade and slavery in the District of Columbia. Meantime others, who looked upon the system as an evil
to be remedied at all hazards, sent through the mail to 1882. the South publications, addressed to the slave-owners
themselves, and designed to influence them in favor of emancipation ; but there were others who sent papers that contained engravings by no means calculated to make the slave contented with his lot. The fear was great lest the latter might become the occasion of insurrections and blood-shed. President Jackson recommended to Congress to pass a law prohibiting the use of the mail for the circulation of “incendiary publications.” But the bill to that effect did not become a law. The excitement was great, both North and South : in the former sometimes developing itself in violent measures against the abolitionists ; in the latter, some broke into the post-offices and destroyed the obnosious papers, and others raised the cry
of disunion, while, so embittered, had the feeling become 1886. in Congress, that for a time memorials on the subject
would not be received.
Now the slavery agitation was a legacy left by the previous administration—a question which overshadowed all others, and almost exclusively engaged the attention of Congress and the nation. Three years before the Wilmot Proviso had initiated the discussion, which was fast acquiring a tone of bitterness hitherto unknown. The contents of the newspapers showed that the question had penetrated into every nook and corner of the land in social circles and in the retirement of the firesidemall were alive to the importance of the subject at issue ; the